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American group hopes to raise status of female cyclists
A group hoping to elevate the status of women in cycling, the Women's Cycling Association (WCA) kicked off its "Join The Ride" membership drive on Saturday, November 16, 2013 in Davis at the Bicycling Hall of Fame with a forum discussion entitled "Establishing Equity in Women's Professional Cycling."
WCA President Robin Farina (NOW and Novartis for MS) and WCA board member Alison Tetrick (ExergyTWENTY16) presented the vision and mission of the WCA. The group hopes "to develop, maintain, and support a network of women cyclists and supporters of women cycling" and "to create opportunity for professional women cyclists."
"There was a lot of buzz about women cycling this year," 2011 U.S. National Road Champion Farina said. "Back in May, for the US Pro Championships, it was the first time women raced on par as the men. It was the same venue, same day, and same prize purse. That was a huge milestone for women. Janel Holcomb (Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) and I chatted about what we could do to help women cycling. We decided at the next race, Philly Cycling Classic, that we would hold a meeting and try to make things happen. We invited the women of the peloton. Fifteen women showed up to discuss the challenges and at that meeting the WCA was born.
"About a month later at the Cascade Classic, we had over 30 riders show up. We also had people who wanted to participate through Skype. The momentum was building. People started to recognize that this could be a viable organization. That is how we want to market ourselves. We see ourselves as the unified voice of the women peloton."
Panelists Taylor Wiles (Specialized lululemon), Olivia Dillon (NOW and Novartis for MS), and Emily Kachorek (Vanderkitten) shared how they began racing. They all agreed that having a unified women cycling voice will help them and the next generation of riders gain equity and exposure.
The League of American Bicyclists released a report showing a positive trend for women and bicycling. Women are the new majority in ownership. 60% of bicycle owners are 17-28 year-old women. From 2003 to 2012, the number of women and girls who ride bicycles rose 20% compared to a 0.5% decline among men. Though 82% of American women have a positive view of bicyclists, women are still underrepresented in leadership advocacy positions. WCA would like to capitalize on the increasing buying power of women and increase the visibility of women cyclists.
"Over the next couple of months and into the race season we are planning to have events like these is strategic areas all around the country," said Farina. "The Bicycle Hall of Fame came to us and asked us to do this event. We are planning to take this on the road. I am thinking the next events will be on the east coast, in southern California and in the New York City area." Farina is looking to increase the membership in WCA.
"This has become a full time job for me. I have stopped training because the WCA has so much momentum going right now. I get phone call and e-mails all day about how people can join. This has been completely gratifying. I feel there is a great opportunity to make our sport better. When I look around and see young riders, and even riders who entered the sport later, I feel this needs to be done know. It’s a perfect time because people are coming together."
"I think that the WCA is a brilliant idea," Amelia Tanner (JETCycling) said. "As a junior athlete the WCA is paving the way for me. It’s helping me crash through those tough barriers. I applaud Robin for all of her efforts. Through the WCA’s mentor program I have a Taylor Wiles as my mentor. Taylor and I correspond through e-mail and Skype. Taylor has been a great person to bounce ideas off of. Since she has been through a lot, she tells me what to expect and how to deal with situations.
Jono Coultor, Vanderkitten Director of Athletics said, "For a team like ours, there have been missed opportunities to connect with governing bodies like USA Cycling and the UCI. What Robin and the governing board of the WCA is doing is creating a unified voice. The WCA can convey the teams' and riders' concerns. Having a unified voice for women in cycling is critical and will be beneficial."
For more information visit the Women's Cycling Association website.